Sophie Pollitt-Cohen writes:
Ads for the new movie “In The Loop,” which I am trying to see, preferably on a date of some kind, have got me thinking about that phrase. My brain helped me realize that usually when people use it, it is to express anxiety about not being in the loop or potentially not being in the loop. It’s always “keep me in the loop,” or “I am so out of the loop.” You never hear anyone expressing contentment with his state in relation to the loop. No one ever says “You know what? I am loving being in the loop right now. It’s a great place for me, and I plan on staying here. I know I am in the loop, and I am confident I will stay in the loop.” This is mysterious.
So here’s what we know: today, “the loop” means a place where you know what’s going on, and apparently most people have no clue, since they are always talking about how they’re not there. But where does this phrase come from? What is the loop, really?
There are a few things I’m pretty sure it does not refer to. A loop can be “a portion of cord, ribbon, etc., folded or doubled upon itself so as to leave an opening between the parts.” People do tie strings of ribbon around their fingers to remember to do things, thus making a loop. Maybe it means keep me in that loop, like keep me in with all the things you are trying to remember. This usually doesn’t work, because people forget why they have that stupid piece of string on their finger like a freak.
Maybe it comes from electricity. A loop is also “a closed electric or magnetic circuit.” So it could mean like keep me within the bounds of electricity, where everything is happening. Or it could be referring to the right hand rule, in which you kind of make a thumbs-up sign—keep me in the loop could mean keep me within the way the magnetic and/or electric field is flowing, a place where everything is thumbs-up. But let’s be honest, only a nerd like Faraday would say something like this, and no one listens to nerds.
In figure skating, a loop is “a school figure in which a skater traces a large half circle, a small oval within its arc, and another large half circle to complete the figure while remaining on the same skating edge.” This is irrelevant. No one would ever want to be associated with figure skating.
Sometimes people say “loop de loop,” but who knows what they are talking about, since those are not really words.
There are loops in rollercoasters, but who would trust something designed to make people vom?
My dad sent me a link that argues the phrase could come from computers, which is interesting because I am currently writing this on a computer and nobody told me about that connection. Loop once meant “a sequence of control operations or activities in which each depends on the results of the previous one” or “a sequence of instructions which is executed repeatedly (usually with an operand that changes in each cycle) until some previously specified criterion is satisfied.”
I think this could make sense until you realize it actually might not, because these origins sound dubious. The second is from computers, which nobody understands. The first is from “science and technology in general,” which sounds made-up. Also, these come from the 1970s, when smoking wasn’t bad for you and computers were as big as a building, so who really knows what was going on back then?
To me, the only thing that makes any kind of sense is from Chicago. And I’m not just referring to the Obamas! Am I right guys? I’m still referring to the phrase “in the loop,” which is what this whole essay is about. Do you even know where you are? Anyway, in Chicago, The Loop is “the historical center of downtown Chicago….an area bounded by a public transit…in general use it refers to the whole central business district.” So if you are in the loop, you’re where everything’s happening. Which leaves you wondering, if you know so much, why haven’t you moved to New York yet? Not every question has an answer. Or maybe I just don’t know because I’m not in the loop. See how it all comes full circle? And isn’t a circle kind of like a loop? Or did I just blow your mind completely?